Some of the countries in the developed world, held out as examples of integrity and transparency for developing countries such as Nigeria have been found to be the most secretive and essential “enablers” of corruption and of illicit financial flows
The Tax Justice Network (author of the study) has just recently launched its 2015 Financial Secrecy Index, which according to it, is the biggest ever survey of global financial secrecy.
According to the Corruption Perception Index from Transparency International, which is highly regarded and well publicized, Switzerland, Hong Kong, the United States, Singapore, Luxembourg, Germany, and the United Kingdom are all among the 20 “least corrupt countries” in the world.
Yet, the less-well-known Financial Secrecy Index, from Tax Justice Network, also places them among the top 15 “secrecy jurisdictions” (also known as “tax havens”), which serve as the essential “enablers” of corruption and of illicit financial flows by multinational corporations.
The Biggest Players In The World Of Secrecy Today Are:
- Hong Kong
- Dubai / UAE
** United Kingdom [not in top ten, but “supports a network of secrecy jurisdictions around the world.” If counted together, would be first place]
African countries on the list rank as follows:
South Africa 61
Since the 1970s African countries alone have lost over $1 trillion in capital flight, while their combined external debts are less than $200 billion. So Africa is a major net debtor to the world – but its assets are in the hands of wealthy élites, protected by offshore secrecy; while the debts are shouldered by broad African populations.
The Financial Secrecy Index reveals that the traditional stereotypes of tax havens are misconceived. The world’s most important providers of financial secrecy, harbouring looted assets are not mostly the small, palm-fringed islands as many suppose, but some of the world’s biggest and wealthiest countries. Rich OECD member countries and their satellites are the main recipients of, or conduits for these illicit flows.
Many poorer countries, deprived of tax and haemorrhaging capital into secrecy jurisdictions, rely on foreign aid handouts. This hurts citizens of rich and poor countries alike.
Despite the progress made by global and regional initiatives in opening up secrecy and the illicit flow of funds internationally, they are sabotaged by lobbies that have already weakened them.
According to the report, the US is one of the few whose secrecy score worsened after 2013.
Its hypocritical stance of seeking to protect itself against foreign tax havens while preserving itself as a tax haven for residents of other countries needs also to be countered.
Switzerland is still at the top of the secrecy index despite what you may have heard. Swiss banking secrecy is far from dead, though it has curbed its secrecy somewhat.
The UK has been playing a powerful blocking role to protect its huge, slippery and dangerous trusts sector, probably the biggest hole in the entire global transparency agenda.
The United Kingdom also remains a huge concern. While its own secrecy is moderate, its global network of secrecy jurisdictions – the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories – still operate in deep secrecy and have, for instance, not co-operated in creating public registers of beneficial ownership. The UK has failed to address this effectively, though it has the power to do so.
According to the authors of the report, sharing information publicly is still a huge problem in the quest to address illicit financial flows:
Private sector ‘enablers’ and recalcitrant jurisdictions like Dubai and the Bahamas are beavering away finding exclusions and loopholes, being picky about which countries they’ll exchange information with, and simply disregarding the rules.
An estimated $21 to $32 trillion of private financial wealth is located, untaxed or lightly taxed, in secrecy jurisdictions around the world.